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FAA and ASSURE Announce Results of Air-To-Air Collision Study

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WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Last month, a report from Canada indicated the possible collision of a drone with a jet approaching Quebec City’s International Airport. The incident reintroduced public concerns about air collisions between small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) and commercial aircraft and what it may mean to the safety of air travel.

Quadcopter Wing Impact

Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is not yet able to definitively address these concerns, studies by a consortium of leading universities, through the Alliance for System Safety of UAS through Research Excellence (ASSURE), have begun to bring better understanding to the physical damage associated with small unmanned aircraft – or drones – colliding midair with commercial and business aircraft.

The ASSURE research team began its research in FY 2016, using unique resources from Mississippi State University, Montana State University, Ohio State University, and Wichita State University. This research team set out to answer the question of what happens when – not if – there is a collision between a sUAS and an airplane.

“While the effects of bird impacts on airplanes are well documented, little is known about the effects of more rigid and higher mass sUAS on aircraft structures and propulsion systems,” said Mississippi State University’s Marty Rogers, the Director of ASSURE. “The results of this work are critical to the safety of commercial air travel here in the United States and around the world.”  

Today at 12:15 p.m. EST, at the FAA Federal Headquarters in Washington, D.C., the FAA, along with ASSURE members, announced their findings in The sUAS Air-to-Air Collision Severity Evaluation Final Report.

Researchers’ efforts began by first determining the most likely impact scenarios. This was done by reviewing operating environments for both sUAS and manned aircraft.  The team then selected the commercial and business aircraft and sUAS based on these impact scenarios and their likely exposure to one another.

The commercial narrow-body air transport selected was characteristic of a Boeing B737 and an Airbus A320 aircraft, which represent 70% of the commercial aircraft fleet.  The business jet model represented a Learjet 30/40/50. Similarly, the team selected a small quadcopter and a light fixed-winged unmanned aircraft as representative of the most-likely threats to manned aircraft. 

Researchers determined the areas of manned aircraft most likely to be impacted

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